Interesting Article on Leadership

I read an interesting article on today on leadership and the one, single trait, that can make or break a leader. Mike Mayatt, in his article in Forbes Magazine ( makes the point, “Leadership is pursuit — pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves.” Thought provoking really. I love the almost simplification of this huge quality that an individual can have. When you really think about it and you really boil down to what makes a leader successful, it is indeed pursuit, plain and simple.

What does this mean? Basically, Good leaders intentionally pursue recent and relevant information and ideas. Failure to do so produces mediocrity. Failure to pursue the right things produces obsolescence and a leader who has generally missed the boat. Knowing what to pursue and when to pursue it will give you a jump on your competition.

My favorite quote of the article: “A failure to embrace pursuit is to cede opportunity to others.”

Very interesting thoughts – – – I wonder what I’m pursuing that doesn’t fit my end goal? What are you pursuing?

Another of my favorite thoughts in this article: “Pursue discovery, seek dissenting opinions, develop your ability unlearn by embracing how much you don’t know, and find the kind of vision that truly does see around corners.” I’d sure love to see around corners!

Mike Myatt, Contributor
Leadership advisor to CEOs & Boards, and author of Leadership Matters
This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You (Leadership, December 19, 2011)

Earned Value

I use EVM (Earned Value Management) on all of my projects. The project stakeholders love the real-time look at actual progress acheived.

There is a difference in what percent complete really means . . . Do you want to know more?

If you don’t mind, please take this short poll so I can see where we all stand.

[polldaddy poll=5773997]

What is a Leader?

What is a leader? A while back, I wrote about the difference between a leader and a manager. I still firmly believe that there is a difference between the two. I did not, however, actually get into the nuts and bolts of what a leader really is.  First let me share with you a couple of actual definitions: ( defines a leader with the following:

  1. a person or thing that leads.
  2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
  3. Music: a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band, or chorus.

Merriam Webster ( breaks it down a little bit differently, but still has the same basic definition in regards to the human aspect: [Note: my quote below is actually definition #2 from]

Definition #2: a person who leads: as

  1. guide, conductor
  2. (1) : a person who directs a military force or unit (2) : a person who has commanding authority or influence
  3. (1) : the principal officer of a British political party (2) : a party member chosen to manage party activities in a legislative body (3) : such a party member presiding over the whole legislative body when the party constitutes a majority
  4. d (1)  conductor c (2) : a first or principal performer of a group

One definition that caught my eye when starting this entry was a music conductor as in an orchestra, band, or chorus. This is partly because I have always been around music, and also because I love the analogy that comes in to focus.

Have you ever seen a conductor’s score? What an amazingly complicated document. Each page contains the scores for every part played by every instrument. Even the simplest of musical pieces can get complicated very quickly. It is the role of the conductor to ensure that everyone plays their part at the appropriate time, and to make sure everyone is paying attention to the various marks on the page.

It is beautiful to watch a good conductor at work. Such grace. Such concentration. All of the various pieces come together all at once to turn dots on a page into a musical masterpiece. All eyes are on him, trusting him to lead them the right direction. Any false moves, and embarrassment can quickly ensue, ruining the musicality altogether. The key here is trust. Not only are the musicians trusting the conductor, but the audience is trusting him or her as well.

Business leaders must know enough about what they are doing to be trustworthy. In my current business, I have to know what goes into a repair and maintenance manual. My team looks to me to make good decisions which will allow them the best opportunity to succeed. It is my job to make sure my team has the tools to do their job. That is the role of a leader. A leader is a person who inspires people to achieve great heights despite their own limitations. A leader inspires people to want to achieve more and more every time. A leader is a motivator that people look up to. A leader is someone who people come to for direction and feedback. A leader has many followers, people who want to stay, people who want to succeed.

One final note: A good leader puts his or her followers ahead of himself or herself. I don’t believe there is any room in this world for a selfish leader. A selfish leader steps on the toes of those below him in order to make himself look good. What they don’t understand is that by pushing the team down, they are not really leading or motivating. The selfish leader puts undue stress on a team and fails to give credit where credit is due. A selfish leader misses out on the rewards of seeing everyone succeed. This is the most valuable part. A leader should be like a proud parent, wanting to see the accomplishments of their children grow and grow and grow. A good leader should always be training the next generation.

As always, I appreciate you reading this post. I also covet your comments as they help me grow and give me opportunities to make my blog posts even better.


Leadership vs. Management: Part 3 – Integrity

In keeping with my current topic, I’ll discuss integrity as a trait of a good leader.

I appreciate everyone checking in and reading my articles and commenting. While I do not necessarily agree with everyone’s comments, I will post them on here anyway as my articles are my opinion based on my own experiences and reading. Dissenting opinions are what keeps this world turning in the right direction. If everyone agreed on everything, group-think would prevail and nothing would ever get accomplished.

in·teg·ri·ty [in-teg-ri-tee]–noun  (from
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty

Integrity is a word that seems to have diminishing value these days. It used to be of the utmost importance to everyone, but now, our society seems to let more and more things slide on by as we become more and more desensitized. This is really a sad state of affairs for our countries and workplaces.

What does it actually mean to have integrity? The above definition is accurate, but simple. Reading it requires little to no additional thought. Ok, so if I adhere to a moral and ethical “principle” I will have soundness of moral “character” and honesty. Great, I can live with that. When I go to work, I expect my employees to work. In turn, I give them an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. I treat them fairly and even make an attempt to understand their individual needs. I “clock in” on time and leave “on time” and never bill hours that I didn’t actually work. I tell the truth about my project’s progress and the status of the budget, even if the news is bad. I have integrity, right?


As Lee Corso, from ESPN Game Day would say, “Not so fast my friend!”

To complete my illustration, suppose I finish my day’s work, get in my car and toss an old empty cup on the ground because it’s just cluttering up my floor? Then suppose, I take my car and race a “break-neck” speeds well above the speed limit to get to my next destination. What if my next destination is to the arms of a woman that is not my wife? Where is my integrity in all of these actions? Sure, I make good decisions at work, but what about the rest of the time. What do I do when no one is actually watching me, or at least when I think no one is watching?

Integrity is who we are when nobody is watching us!

Ladies and gentlemen, I say integrity goes beyond the simple definition as provided by Integrity is who we are when nobody is watching us! Integrity defines who we are in the eyes of other people. If someone sees me dumping trash, they might be offended and discusted. As I’m speeding down the highway, I’m breaking the law which is set for my safety and the safety of other drivers. I do not have the right to put anyone else in harm’s way, but that’s exactly what I’d be doing. And what about the other woman? Don’t you think my wife might have something to say about my integrity then?  Our families should be the first to be able to trust us. If they cannot trust us, how should we expect others to? Do you want your employees to trust you and listen to you?

I call each of you out, right now, to investigate your own integrity. What do you do when you think no one is looking or paying attention. If there are items in your life that need to change, CHANGE THEM. Get over yourself and think of what others might perseve you are doing. Establish integrity at home, within your friendship circles, and at work. This is an important step anybody can take to move themself from a simple manager to an effective leader. A good leader, with unquestioning integrity, will take a team to great hights, not to mention, the teamwork that builds upon that integrity and adopts it as its own.

Project managers have to take this integrity to an even higher level. As being typically “temporary,” project managers have a reputation that typically precedes them in any business opportunity. I once knew a project manager at a firm in Tulsa, OK. He seemed to know what he was doing, but one day, I found an instant messaging client on his computer that he left on while we chatted about server upgrades. While we were talking, chime after chime after chime came in as his IM client lit up with girls wanting to chat. He was all too happy to oblige, and make no bones about it. It was his “smoke break.” There are two problems here, one is that he’s at work, using company resouces, and company time to fool around with girls of unknown age on the Internet. Secondly, and most importantly, HE WAS MARRIED. Once I found this out, his integrity was shot and so was his credibility.

Well, that’s all for this edition. I hope you’ll come back for part 4 – Accountability

Have a great rest-of-the-week and a safe week-end.



integrity. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved September 17, 2008, from website:

Leadership vs. Management: Part 2

Ok, this ended up being a multi-part series. Here is more on leadership versus management.

Question: Are you a project manager or a project leader?

I’m not asking what your actual title is, but rather what is your project management style? Do you lead, or just manage? What is the difference?

If you look at my first post (Leadership vs. Management: Part 1) you’ll notice that there is a big difference between the two. This post is more of the same theory, but more pointed toward project management work rather than being so general.

First, let’s define a project manager and a project. Wikipedia states a project manager “has the responsibility of the planning, execution, and closing of any project.” PMI adds two other process groups to this, Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling, and Closing. Projects are defined as a single, unique effort with a definite start date, definite end date, and specific budget.

So, how does leadership vs. management come in to play here? Well, the answer is pretty simple. A “simple” project manager can follow the guidelines and processes of any project management methodology. There are good, even great project managers all around the world and their work is commendable. A powerful project manager, however, is one that is more of a project leader than a project manager. As I mentioned in my previous article, leaders can inspire greatness in any situation. Leaders have the mental tools to take their project teams to the next level.

Project leaders equip their teams with all of the tools they need to get the job done on time and under budget. Andy Crowe in his book The PMP Exam: How to pass on Your First Try mentions the project manager being “large and in charge” which is an important part of the leadership recipe. Being large and in charge means having the mental toughness and ability to make decisions. What it also means, however, is something that many leaders forget. Project leaders empower their teams to do their jobs.

Let me repeat that. Project leaders empower their teams to do their jobs.

Empowerment is vital to the success of a good project team. Each team member must be trusted to perform their own jobs and be given the ability to make decisions in order to do so. This does three things for the project: it frees up the project leader to focus more on the threats and opportunities the project faces, it speeds up the decision making processes so that red tape does not get in the way of the day-to-day work of the project, and it also gives the team member additional confidence knowing they add real value to the team.

One thing that cannot be overlooked is the selection of the actual team. Project leaders have done their research. They look for team members that produce consistently and know how to do their jobs. They get the folks that are the best in the business (whatever business that may be) and take advantage of their availability. It is important, however, to bring up less seasoned team members, or even educated rookies, with the veterans so their experience can grow with the best in the business.

Overall, leadership is a vital portion of the project management experience. Those with leadership capabilities have the ability to take their projects to a higher level of productivity. As a hiring manager, you don’t have to hire someone with leadership abilities. You can hire a competent project manager and make a good hire. If you are given the choice, however, a project leader is worth the extra money.

Do you want your project to be good or great. The choice is up to you.

Thanks for tuning in.

Jim Shaffer, PMP


This might be part one of a multi-part series, but for now, it is simply titled to stand alone.

I am a Project Manager. I have achieved my PMP (Project Management Professional) certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI: I have also obtained a Certificate in Project Management from Colorado Christian University ( What does all of this mean? Nothing really except to say that I have studied a bit on leadership and I think it is a trait that is about as common as common sense. IT AIN’T!

There are some people out there who assume (an ugly word) that because they are in a management position, they are a leader. I beg to differ! In fact, it is possible to manage successfully without an ounce of leadership ability. Management is basically following a script that someone before you or above you created for you to follow. It is a matter of doing things right.

Some examples of managers are:

  • Fast food restaraunts
  • Assembly line supervisor
  • Video stores and retail outlets
  • Functional supervisors

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these positions have occasional leaders occupying their seats, but a manager and a leader are two different things. Sure, “anyone” can go into a “Mac-shack” and work their way up to become a manager. They can show people how to make hamburgers the proper way and how to tell when the fries are done or even to know what that particular irritating beeper is that is going off. These people can be effective managers and actually obtain a pretty good management education.

BUT, can they get their employees to WANT to be nice to you in the drive-thru window?

Can a manager get an employee to be nice to you? Yes, of course, through fear of losing a job, a manager can get an employee to be courteous to you at the window or counter. That was not the question though. The question was can they get an employee to WANT to be nice – meaning inspire them to be nice to you and every other customer? More often than not, the answer is no, just go see for yourself.

Leadership is a totally different animal all together. Leaders inspire greatness. Leaders have an eye for the direction of the company or department. Leaders will do the right things rather than simply doing things right. Leaders can have employees that actually want to follow them to the next project, or even to the next company. Leaders inspire productivity.

There is a solid difference between leadership and management. There is no “thin line” that can be crossed. Leadership is inherant in an individual, I don’t believe it can be taught. Can it be molded, enhanced, educated, groomed, etc? Yes. In fact if a natual leader is not nurtured, the ability can be lost. It is, however, a natural ability.

Question: Do you have to be in a management role in order to lead?

Answer: No, absolutely not. A co-worker once told me that if management isn’t getting things done, you have to lead from the bottom-up. Is this difficult? Absolutely, but can sometimes be crucial in the survivability of a project, department, or even company. If ideas and visions are presented to upper management in a certain way, they can flourish. Be careful, however, and be prepared to have your ideas “stolen” and claimed as someone else’s (like your manager). Get over it and document your ideas better next time. Don’t hold a grudge, though! If you hold a grudge, be prepared to have your employment situation change a bit, and not necessarily for the better.

Well, as I get into this, I can see that I’m going to need a multi-part series with additional resources. 🙂 I hope you’ll come back for more.

What are your thoughts? I love feedback. Do you disagree? If so, why? Do you agree, how so? MORE?

Thanks for tuning in. Until next time,